One of the fundamental rules of law, in divorces or any other civil cases, is that the responding parties must always have notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard, which is why personal service is so important. However, personal service is not always possible, for various reasons. Although there is no law directly on point, service via social media is a growing nationwide trend that may one day replace traditional alternative service.

There are plenty of reasons judges like service via social media, especially in cases that involve out-of-country respondents or serial service avoiders. With over 1.5 billion Facebook members worldwide, literally almost everyone in developed countries has one of these accounts. Moreover, Facebook takes additional steps to authenticate these accounts, making it difficult for wives to create fake accounts for their husbands, and vice versa. Finally, there is no additional risk, because even though there is no guarantee that the person viewing Facebook messages is the account holder, the same risk applies in other forms of alternate service.

Personal Service

The only way to guarantee notice is to serve papers in person. In Arizona, there are several methods that satisfy this requirement:

  • Service by Acceptance: If the spouse agrees to accept service of process, the papers can be mailed. Service by acceptance usually only occurs if the other spouse has an attorney.
  • Waiver of Service: Spouses may also waive citation in writing, and waivers are quite common in uncontested divorces.
  • Delivery Service: Arizona is one of the few states that allow service via FedEx, UPS, and other delivery services, probably because, at least in most cases, the recipient must sign an acknowledgment.
  • Personal Service: Either a peace officer, like a sheriff or constable, or a licensed private process server may serve divorce papers in Arizona.

Typically, service via constable is less expensive and less time consuming (because the officer usually files the paperwork) than private process servers. But unlike private process, constable service may take up to three weeks or more in some jurisdictions.

Service by Publication

Sometimes, either the petitioner does not know the respondent’s address or the respondent purposefully avoids service. In such cases, courts may authorize service by publication. Due diligence affidavits must support these requests. Typically, if the respondent is a dodger, the judge will want at least three unsuccessful attempts at different times of the day. For no address-based requests, the petitioner must exhaust all possible remedies short of hiring a private investigator.

Publication requests must be in a specific form and run in a specified publication for a set period of time, usually two or three weeks. Afterwards, if the respondent does not reply, the petitioner may proceed with a default divorce.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Proper service is a must-have in divorce cases. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Tempe, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack. After hours appointments are available.